Matt Flick

@matthewflick | contributor
I'm a writer and graphic designer with Spina Bifida living in New York City.
Matt Flick

How to Load a Wheelchair Into a Car in New York City

You have issues with your legs and use a wheelchair to get around. Most people will consider this terrible news, but not you! You understand all the advantages — better parking, no waiting in lines, people are constantly offering to do things for you. One factor you didn’t consider, though, is that you drive and will have to transport the chair. Dammit! Here’s how the process works. You push yourself towards your car which is parked on a busy street. Once you arrive at the passenger side, you realize you should be on the opposite side of the car. The unlock button on your key fob doesn’t function and you have to unlock the doors manually. You glance around to find that you’ve parked in the middle of a long city block and the accessible curb cut is about four miles away, at the end of the block (it could merely be about 50 feet but you’re terrible at estimating distance). So, you propel yourself to the intersection, roll down the rare curb cut, and push yourself back down the street to the car, hoping to evade being run over by the New York City rush hour traffic, dodging bike messengers and that one skateboarder. You arrive at your car and unlock the door. As you open the driver’s side door, the driver of a bright yellow taxi cab leans on their horn to make sure you realize they are about to hit you. They swerve at the last minute narrowly missing your door. You punch the button to open the trunk and slam the door closed. Now you have a decision to make. You must reach the trunk, so you can either make a U-turn in your chair, inching a little further into the hectic street, or you can just roll yourself back down the street towards your rear bumper. With the second option, you won’t have to travel farther into the street — you’ll just have to blindly roll down 23rd Street for about 20 feet or so, hoping the entire time you don’t get hit. You resolve that if you’re going to die, you’d rather not see it coming, so you choose the second option. With your eyes clenched closed, you push like hell and in a moment you make it to your trunk. Of course, this is New York and space is at a premium. The late-model BMW parked behind you is mere inches from your rear bumper, so you wedge yourself and your chair between the vehicles. You stand up and brace yourself against your car as you disassemble the wheelchair. First, the $500 gel-filled cushion, which feels no better on your ass than the $30 Amazon cushion, is removed and goes into the trunk. Then the back of the chair folds down to rest on the vinyl sling seat. Finally, the wheels come off and you arrange them in the car next to the cushion. Now for the fun part. The last piece to go into the trunk is the biggest, most awkward piece to handle — the frame. Including the chair and the two cars, you are squeezed between roughly $100,000 worth of finely engineered machinery and you don’t want to scratch any of it, so you ever so carefully pick up the chair frame with one hand while bracing yourself on the bumper with the other. You feel your legs buckle and your grip loosen. With one brisk motion, you get the slightest corner of the frame onto the lip of the trunk. With the frame’s weight supported by the car, you delicately shove the frame the rest of the way into the trunk, being sure to rub the grease-laden axles across your ridiculously expensive cushion, while simultaneously putting the 200th scratch into your bumper. You waddle back to the driver’s side door, gripping onto the car like a free-soloing rock climber, digging fingers into any available handhold, your fingertips either numb from the cold or burned off from the heat, depending on the season. The whole while, you mentally beat yourself up for buying an all-black car. You also reflect on how you will have to repeat the entire process once you get home, as you grip the door handle, only to realize you inadvertently locked the door with the keys resting on the driver’s seat, silently mocking you.

Matt Flick

Experiencing Employment Discrimination Because of My Disability

One year ago, my world completely changed. On March 13th, 2020, I left my job for what would be the last time. I was informed I was furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I was told my furlough would hopefully only be about six weeks. Six weeks turned into six months. Six months turned into a year. I know this is a common story. I know I’m not alone. What makes my story different is that I am unemployed and disabled. I was born with a birth defect, spina bifida. I have limited feeling and limited mobility below the waist. I use a combination of crutches and a manual wheelchair to get around. When I was born, the doctor told my parents I would likely never walk and would have an intellectual disability. So I consider myself lucky in some respects. This was not the first time I’ve had job woes. Like most people in the disabled community, I’ve always had problems getting a job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate for disabled people was 17.9% in 2020. Compare that to 68.1% for non-disabled people. I’ve applied to thousands of jobs. I’ve gone back to school to improve my skills. I even contacted my local Vocational Rehabilitation office. This is a state-run organization that helps disabled people with job training and placement. My counselor told me I was making a decent amount in disability benefits and I should continue. According to her, it was just easier. This was someone whose job is to help me transition out of the system. Of course, I’ve had some interviews, but they always ended with the same result. The interviewer would see my crutches and immediately some issue would arise. The duties connected to the job changed and I was no longer qualified. A day before the interview, I’d be informed the position was already filled. Despite the fact that I drive, the commute would be an issue. I was offered the job and then the offer was rescinded. I’ve been given so many excuses why I wasn’t hired. Due to the rejection, frustration and uncertainty, I developed anxiety and mild depression. After many years, I thought my luck had changed. In 2017, I was offered a part-time job as a graphic designer. I was happy to finally get paid doing something I love. It was part-time, but I was assured full time was in my future if I wanted it. That never happened. Then the pandemic hit. On a Monday in March, I was told to not come in the next day and that was it. For the last year, I’ve been stuck at home, waiting. Sending out application after application. I’ve had a few virtual interviews. One even went through a few rounds, interviewed by a variety of departments including Human Resources. Since the whole process was through Zoom, and I was only seen from the shoulders up, I mentioned my disability to HR. I was assured it wasn’t an issue. Then, as was the pattern, I was left wondering. I made several calls to find out my status. The calls went unanswered for six weeks. I finally received an email that they had hired someone else. Legally I didn’t have to disclose my disability. I only mentioned it for full disclosure. For my honesty, I feel I lost another opportunity. I’m disabled. My legs do not work like able-bodied people’s legs. That is it. I’m intelligent. I’m logical. I’m talented. I’m a problem solver. But, because of a genetic anomaly, I’m not given the same opportunities. I’m marginalized. I’m often an afterthought. In this country, people who receive social services are often considered a “burden.” Many of us do not want to be a burden. Many of us long to be productive members of society but are not given the opportunity, or we are told it’s easier to continue receiving social services. Easier for who? Spina bifida is not my disability. Society’s lack of inclusivity and accommodation is the real disability.

Matt Flick

Experiencing Employment Discrimination Because of My Disability

One year ago, my world completely changed. On March 13th, 2020, I left my job for what would be the last time. I was informed I was furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I was told my furlough would hopefully only be about six weeks. Six weeks turned into six months. Six months turned into a year. I know this is a common story. I know I’m not alone. What makes my story different is that I am unemployed and disabled. I was born with a birth defect, spina bifida. I have limited feeling and limited mobility below the waist. I use a combination of crutches and a manual wheelchair to get around. When I was born, the doctor told my parents I would likely never walk and would have an intellectual disability. So I consider myself lucky in some respects. This was not the first time I’ve had job woes. Like most people in the disabled community, I’ve always had problems getting a job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate for disabled people was 17.9% in 2020. Compare that to 68.1% for non-disabled people. I’ve applied to thousands of jobs. I’ve gone back to school to improve my skills. I even contacted my local Vocational Rehabilitation office. This is a state-run organization that helps disabled people with job training and placement. My counselor told me I was making a decent amount in disability benefits and I should continue. According to her, it was just easier. This was someone whose job is to help me transition out of the system. Of course, I’ve had some interviews, but they always ended with the same result. The interviewer would see my crutches and immediately some issue would arise. The duties connected to the job changed and I was no longer qualified. A day before the interview, I’d be informed the position was already filled. Despite the fact that I drive, the commute would be an issue. I was offered the job and then the offer was rescinded. I’ve been given so many excuses why I wasn’t hired. Due to the rejection, frustration and uncertainty, I developed anxiety and mild depression. After many years, I thought my luck had changed. In 2017, I was offered a part-time job as a graphic designer. I was happy to finally get paid doing something I love. It was part-time, but I was assured full time was in my future if I wanted it. That never happened. Then the pandemic hit. On a Monday in March, I was told to not come in the next day and that was it. For the last year, I’ve been stuck at home, waiting. Sending out application after application. I’ve had a few virtual interviews. One even went through a few rounds, interviewed by a variety of departments including Human Resources. Since the whole process was through Zoom, and I was only seen from the shoulders up, I mentioned my disability to HR. I was assured it wasn’t an issue. Then, as was the pattern, I was left wondering. I made several calls to find out my status. The calls went unanswered for six weeks. I finally received an email that they had hired someone else. Legally I didn’t have to disclose my disability. I only mentioned it for full disclosure. For my honesty, I feel I lost another opportunity. I’m disabled. My legs do not work like able-bodied people’s legs. That is it. I’m intelligent. I’m logical. I’m talented. I’m a problem solver. But, because of a genetic anomaly, I’m not given the same opportunities. I’m marginalized. I’m often an afterthought. In this country, people who receive social services are often considered a “burden.” Many of us do not want to be a burden. Many of us long to be productive members of society but are not given the opportunity, or we are told it’s easier to continue receiving social services. Easier for who? Spina bifida is not my disability. Society’s lack of inclusivity and accommodation is the real disability.

Matt Flick

Experiencing Employment Discrimination Because of My Disability

One year ago, my world completely changed. On March 13th, 2020, I left my job for what would be the last time. I was informed I was furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I was told my furlough would hopefully only be about six weeks. Six weeks turned into six months. Six months turned into a year. I know this is a common story. I know I’m not alone. What makes my story different is that I am unemployed and disabled. I was born with a birth defect, spina bifida. I have limited feeling and limited mobility below the waist. I use a combination of crutches and a manual wheelchair to get around. When I was born, the doctor told my parents I would likely never walk and would have an intellectual disability. So I consider myself lucky in some respects. This was not the first time I’ve had job woes. Like most people in the disabled community, I’ve always had problems getting a job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate for disabled people was 17.9% in 2020. Compare that to 68.1% for non-disabled people. I’ve applied to thousands of jobs. I’ve gone back to school to improve my skills. I even contacted my local Vocational Rehabilitation office. This is a state-run organization that helps disabled people with job training and placement. My counselor told me I was making a decent amount in disability benefits and I should continue. According to her, it was just easier. This was someone whose job is to help me transition out of the system. Of course, I’ve had some interviews, but they always ended with the same result. The interviewer would see my crutches and immediately some issue would arise. The duties connected to the job changed and I was no longer qualified. A day before the interview, I’d be informed the position was already filled. Despite the fact that I drive, the commute would be an issue. I was offered the job and then the offer was rescinded. I’ve been given so many excuses why I wasn’t hired. Due to the rejection, frustration and uncertainty, I developed anxiety and mild depression. After many years, I thought my luck had changed. In 2017, I was offered a part-time job as a graphic designer. I was happy to finally get paid doing something I love. It was part-time, but I was assured full time was in my future if I wanted it. That never happened. Then the pandemic hit. On a Monday in March, I was told to not come in the next day and that was it. For the last year, I’ve been stuck at home, waiting. Sending out application after application. I’ve had a few virtual interviews. One even went through a few rounds, interviewed by a variety of departments including Human Resources. Since the whole process was through Zoom, and I was only seen from the shoulders up, I mentioned my disability to HR. I was assured it wasn’t an issue. Then, as was the pattern, I was left wondering. I made several calls to find out my status. The calls went unanswered for six weeks. I finally received an email that they had hired someone else. Legally I didn’t have to disclose my disability. I only mentioned it for full disclosure. For my honesty, I feel I lost another opportunity. I’m disabled. My legs do not work like able-bodied people’s legs. That is it. I’m intelligent. I’m logical. I’m talented. I’m a problem solver. But, because of a genetic anomaly, I’m not given the same opportunities. I’m marginalized. I’m often an afterthought. In this country, people who receive social services are often considered a “burden.” Many of us do not want to be a burden. Many of us long to be productive members of society but are not given the opportunity, or we are told it’s easier to continue receiving social services. Easier for who? Spina bifida is not my disability. Society’s lack of inclusivity and accommodation is the real disability.

Matt Flick

Experiencing Employment Discrimination Because of My Disability

One year ago, my world completely changed. On March 13th, 2020, I left my job for what would be the last time. I was informed I was furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I was told my furlough would hopefully only be about six weeks. Six weeks turned into six months. Six months turned into a year. I know this is a common story. I know I’m not alone. What makes my story different is that I am unemployed and disabled. I was born with a birth defect, spina bifida. I have limited feeling and limited mobility below the waist. I use a combination of crutches and a manual wheelchair to get around. When I was born, the doctor told my parents I would likely never walk and would have an intellectual disability. So I consider myself lucky in some respects. This was not the first time I’ve had job woes. Like most people in the disabled community, I’ve always had problems getting a job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate for disabled people was 17.9% in 2020. Compare that to 68.1% for non-disabled people. I’ve applied to thousands of jobs. I’ve gone back to school to improve my skills. I even contacted my local Vocational Rehabilitation office. This is a state-run organization that helps disabled people with job training and placement. My counselor told me I was making a decent amount in disability benefits and I should continue. According to her, it was just easier. This was someone whose job is to help me transition out of the system. Of course, I’ve had some interviews, but they always ended with the same result. The interviewer would see my crutches and immediately some issue would arise. The duties connected to the job changed and I was no longer qualified. A day before the interview, I’d be informed the position was already filled. Despite the fact that I drive, the commute would be an issue. I was offered the job and then the offer was rescinded. I’ve been given so many excuses why I wasn’t hired. Due to the rejection, frustration and uncertainty, I developed anxiety and mild depression. After many years, I thought my luck had changed. In 2017, I was offered a part-time job as a graphic designer. I was happy to finally get paid doing something I love. It was part-time, but I was assured full time was in my future if I wanted it. That never happened. Then the pandemic hit. On a Monday in March, I was told to not come in the next day and that was it. For the last year, I’ve been stuck at home, waiting. Sending out application after application. I’ve had a few virtual interviews. One even went through a few rounds, interviewed by a variety of departments including Human Resources. Since the whole process was through Zoom, and I was only seen from the shoulders up, I mentioned my disability to HR. I was assured it wasn’t an issue. Then, as was the pattern, I was left wondering. I made several calls to find out my status. The calls went unanswered for six weeks. I finally received an email that they had hired someone else. Legally I didn’t have to disclose my disability. I only mentioned it for full disclosure. For my honesty, I feel I lost another opportunity. I’m disabled. My legs do not work like able-bodied people’s legs. That is it. I’m intelligent. I’m logical. I’m talented. I’m a problem solver. But, because of a genetic anomaly, I’m not given the same opportunities. I’m marginalized. I’m often an afterthought. In this country, people who receive social services are often considered a “burden.” Many of us do not want to be a burden. Many of us long to be productive members of society but are not given the opportunity, or we are told it’s easier to continue receiving social services. Easier for who? Spina bifida is not my disability. Society’s lack of inclusivity and accommodation is the real disability.

Matt Flick

Experiencing Employment Discrimination Because of My Disability

One year ago, my world completely changed. On March 13th, 2020, I left my job for what would be the last time. I was informed I was furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I was told my furlough would hopefully only be about six weeks. Six weeks turned into six months. Six months turned into a year. I know this is a common story. I know I’m not alone. What makes my story different is that I am unemployed and disabled. I was born with a birth defect, spina bifida. I have limited feeling and limited mobility below the waist. I use a combination of crutches and a manual wheelchair to get around. When I was born, the doctor told my parents I would likely never walk and would have an intellectual disability. So I consider myself lucky in some respects. This was not the first time I’ve had job woes. Like most people in the disabled community, I’ve always had problems getting a job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate for disabled people was 17.9% in 2020. Compare that to 68.1% for non-disabled people. I’ve applied to thousands of jobs. I’ve gone back to school to improve my skills. I even contacted my local Vocational Rehabilitation office. This is a state-run organization that helps disabled people with job training and placement. My counselor told me I was making a decent amount in disability benefits and I should continue. According to her, it was just easier. This was someone whose job is to help me transition out of the system. Of course, I’ve had some interviews, but they always ended with the same result. The interviewer would see my crutches and immediately some issue would arise. The duties connected to the job changed and I was no longer qualified. A day before the interview, I’d be informed the position was already filled. Despite the fact that I drive, the commute would be an issue. I was offered the job and then the offer was rescinded. I’ve been given so many excuses why I wasn’t hired. Due to the rejection, frustration and uncertainty, I developed anxiety and mild depression. After many years, I thought my luck had changed. In 2017, I was offered a part-time job as a graphic designer. I was happy to finally get paid doing something I love. It was part-time, but I was assured full time was in my future if I wanted it. That never happened. Then the pandemic hit. On a Monday in March, I was told to not come in the next day and that was it. For the last year, I’ve been stuck at home, waiting. Sending out application after application. I’ve had a few virtual interviews. One even went through a few rounds, interviewed by a variety of departments including Human Resources. Since the whole process was through Zoom, and I was only seen from the shoulders up, I mentioned my disability to HR. I was assured it wasn’t an issue. Then, as was the pattern, I was left wondering. I made several calls to find out my status. The calls went unanswered for six weeks. I finally received an email that they had hired someone else. Legally I didn’t have to disclose my disability. I only mentioned it for full disclosure. For my honesty, I feel I lost another opportunity. I’m disabled. My legs do not work like able-bodied people’s legs. That is it. I’m intelligent. I’m logical. I’m talented. I’m a problem solver. But, because of a genetic anomaly, I’m not given the same opportunities. I’m marginalized. I’m often an afterthought. In this country, people who receive social services are often considered a “burden.” Many of us do not want to be a burden. Many of us long to be productive members of society but are not given the opportunity, or we are told it’s easier to continue receiving social services. Easier for who? Spina bifida is not my disability. Society’s lack of inclusivity and accommodation is the real disability.